I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about my first kiss with the school bad boy Johnny James.
This week on Cricket’s Slice Of Life she’s got us going back to High School again with the prompt High School Romance.
Do you think when a sixteen year old boy gives a sixteen year old girl a locket like this and says he will love her forever that he ever remembers that moment years later?
Johnny gave me that locket 27 years ago. We have since moved on to different lives. We are possibly entirely different people, but the locket still contains vestiges of what I thought was true love.
It makes me smile when I take it out of the box I keep it in. I never wear it anymore. I used to wear it for years until someone asked me why I still wore it, asked me if I was waiting for Johnny to come back.
Johnny and I went out for a year. My mother and father were angry about it. They thought he was a bad apple. I will admit to dating him initially because I knew it would irritate them but also because I couldn’t resist the image being his girlfriend painted in my mind. Me, a straight-A student, a Prefect, going out with the school bad boy. Maybe that meant I was bad too. And that was my aim in life under the squeaky clean smile and air of dependability I wore – I wanted to be viewed by my peers as someone who lived close to the edge.
I pictured giving lip to teachers, petty theft and street brawls as Johnny’s girlfriend. Instead I got discussions about home and family, life and death, and lots and lots of reading and writing.
Johnny wanted to be a writer. He is the only person I have ever met who showed a truly natural inclination as a writer. He saw it, he thought it, he wrote it. That was his process. He taught me that everything can be turned into a story.
He used the most mundane things to add vividness to his stories. Doors on squeaky hinges, dirty windows, letters thrown unopened into garbage bins. He had such an eye for detail it was like he was mentally photographing everything he saw. I, with my style of quirky observation, found it hard to keep up with him. He was as methodical as a scientist.
We had more of a writing partnership than a proper romance. We wrote short stories, poems and plays. One of our plays was performed at the school drama festival. We were the only students to have a play included, even though it was a ridiculous murder mystery set in Victorian England. I think someone died by drinking champagne laced with cyanide. Very Edgar Allen Poe meets Agatha Christie.
We were the Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes of our day (although obviously not as successful or tragic, but they were the only writing couple that came to mind at short notice….)
While I had fun writing, I mean, I have always loved to write, I was disappointed. I wanted to stick it to the establishment, live life as a renegade and a vagabond, not wander into the local park and have Johnny stand in the middle of a copse of trees and say: ‘Listen to that, it’s the sound of hundreds of years of wisdom, right here, right now. You can learn a lot from trees.’
I felt a little miffed. All this writing was doing nothing to convince the popular girls that I was beyond cool and that I had street cred to burn. Johnny, with his James Dean looks and Billy Idol sneer, was turning out to be a bit of a let down.
Despite that, I did fall in love with him. He had a wit and sensitivity that was hard to resist. And being with him, laughing with him, writing our crazy stories together, was a wonderful time for me. Overall, because I could just be myself, it was a bit of a relief.
Johnny moved away in our final year of school. He was only seventeen and couldn’t afford to stay in Sydney on his own, so he had to move interstate with his mother. He tried to be flippant about it, saying that being in love interfered with his writing, but I could see how torn up about it he was.
I cried for over a month, listening to Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart on a loop. Even now, when I hear that song I get a little pang.
Johnny did become a successful writer. The last I heard he was living in New York. He writes under a pseudonym. I have no idea if he lives there still or if he would even recognise me if we happened to pass one another on the street. Or if I would recognise him. It has, after all, been 27 years.